Who is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson? All About Ray Charles’ Ex-wife

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is the second wife of Ray Charles Sr., an American singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist. Della gained popularity as the lead vocalist in a gospel music group before crossing paths with Charles. She was born on the 23rd of September 1929 and so is 94 years old.

The duo met sometime in 1954 and after one year, they exchanged wedding vows in 1955 in a hastily conducted ceremony in a junk-filled back room in Dallas, Texas. Their union went on to last for the ensuing 22 years despite the fact that Charles was constantly cheating on his wife with different women. The couple’s marriage produced three sons who are all grown up doing their own thing. Their first son Ray Charles Jr. even followed a career path in the entertainment industry.

Summary of Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Biography

  • Full Name: Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
  • Gender: Female
  • Date of Birth: 23rd of September 1929
  • Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Age: 94 years old
  • Ethnicity: Afro-American
  • Nationality: American
  • Zodiac Sign: Libra
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight
  • Religion: Christianity
  • Marital Status: Divorced
  • Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Ex-husband: Ray Charles Sr.
  • Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Children: Three (Ray Charles Robinson Jr., David Robinson, and Robert Robinson)
  • Siblings: One
  • Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Height in Inches: 5 feet 5 inches
  • Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Height in Centimetres: 165 cm
  • Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Weight: 76 kg
  • Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Net Worth: $15 million
  • Famous For: Being the ex-wife of Ray Charles Sr.

How Old is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson?

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is currently 94 as she was born on the 23rd of September 1929. Her birth occurred in Houston, Texas in the little town of Richmond. It goes without saying that Della is of American nationality but her ethnic background is obviously Afro-American.

Della’s parents are not known but according to reports, her dad earned his keep as a businessman while her mum was a housemaker. Her mum and dad never got married, thus, she was a product of their affair. it was Della’s mother and grandmother who raised her till she left home. Reports said her dad married another woman and was living with her in Houston. It is worth noting that Della didn’t get to meet her dad when she was small, though she knew him very well and bore his last name. She has a younger brother called James from her mother’s other relationship.

The Texan was still very small when her mum and two of her aunts left Richmond for Houston to take up employment as housekeepers. Before then, she was attending what was described as a “colored school” in her hometown, Richmond. Della was already in 4th grade when she had to move to Houston with her mother and aunts.

She Grew up on a Farm

The place where Della Beatrice Howard Robinson spent her formative years was an eighty-acre farmland belonging to her maternal family. The land had various households living on it. Della’s portion was ten acres of farmland with a one-bedroom frame house.

The type of crops grown on the land include corn, cotton, potatoes, peanuts, and vegetables. They also grew fruit trees, dewberries, and blackberries, and reared cows, chickens, geese, and ducks.

She grew up under the watch of her grandmother Mama Lee and George who was her uncle. It was when Della clocked ten that she went to Houston to start living with her mother.

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Never Got Along With Her Mum

From the moment she landed in Houston, Della and her mother never saw eye to eye as they started fighting over everything. Because she was so used to the quiet life on the farm, the young lady didn’t understand her mother’s way of life.

According to Della Beatrice Howard Robinson, her mum would always keep late nights as she would normally go to parties after work which she hated. Things came to a head when the young Della was asked to start babysitting her younger brother James which led her to opt to move out, though she regretted the decision.

The then-teenage Della started cohabiting with Robert Lee (her cousin) and to date, she admits it was a huge mistake and one of her worst decisions in life. Being so young, getting jobs proved difficult, thus, Della had to lie about her age all the time. In fact, she was lucky that people never bothered about seeing their employee’s birth certificate and she was so tall no one noticed she was underage. Armed with her health card and social security card, the future gospel singer started working at eateries as a waitress.

From Waiting Tables to Gospel Singer

Needless to say what Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was earning waiting tables were just stipends that could barely cover her personal expenses, thus, she started looking for other options.

It was at that point in her life that she joined a gospel group called Cecil Shaw’s gospel group (this group belonged to a church). Then, she already clocked 16 and completed high school and got accommodation staying a fellow group member, Ella Dooley.

A short while after becoming a member of Cecil Shaw’s gospel group Della started singing in concerts, churches, and on the radio. The group also had a recording contract and most of their songs can still be accessed today on CDs. Some of those CDs have Della’s face on them.

How Did Della and Ray Charles Sr. Meet?

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
Della and Charles – image source

By the time Della Beatrice Howard Robinson first crossed paths with Ray Charles Robinson Sr. in 1954, the Richmond native was already in her mid-20s and had gone through two marriages.

It happened that Charles who was a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist liked to listen to the radio while on tour. He was touring “the Jim Crow circuit” through Texas and it happened that Della’s group was singing on the radio. “Pray On, My Child,” was the track, and Della herself was the lead singer. Reports said Charles was deeply moved by the voice which led him to go in search of the girl behind the voice.

Charles eventually met up with Della in a Texas hotel and after they got acquainted, Della wasn’t expecting to run into him again as she wasn’t impressed with what she saw; she said Charles was so full of himself. However, she kept meeting him at every corner which she found rather baffling, but soon discovered that their frequent encounters had nothing to do with coincidences.

According to reports, Charles made a deal with Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s band leader, Cecil, to always keep him informed on the movement of their music group, this way, he was able to keep tabs on which cities to stage those meetings.

At that point in her life, Della was already in her second marriage but she called it quits and went down to New York to stay at Hotel Theresa. However, another orchestrated coincidence happened when she ran into Charles yet again. It would appear that Charles came at the nick of time as Della was almost broke and was on the verge of eviction.

Charles decided to play the “night in shining amour” role by making a down payment on the young lady’s accommodation for the ensuing two weeks without her knowledge. Though she was still hesitant, Della later agreed to move in with Ray Charles in his Dallas home.

Della Became Ray Charles’ Wife in 1955

The couple barely dated for one year when they exchanged wedding vows on the 5th of April 1955. At this point in their lives, Della who was older by two years was doing well in her gospel music career and Charles was also making headway in his own professional life as a musician.

Perhaps because they were yet to achieve fame, the couple’s nuptial didn’t draw any public attention. Rather, it was a hastily conducted ceremony that took place in a junk-filled back room in Dallas Texas. The couple was joined by a woman neither of them had met before.

The first few years of their lives together as husband and wife were drama-free until drug addiction and womanizing on Charles’ part started causing serious issues.

They Divorced After 22 Years of Marriage

After their honeymoon, Charles resumed his usual life on the road, touring all nooks and crannies of America to promote his records. With the resumption of his tours, ugly habits like drugs and womanizing made things really worse. However, he managed to keep the two aspects of his life from clashing.

The family man would always take time off his tours to go home and check on his family while the road musician would go wild with women and drugs once he was out of his wife’s sight. His infamous relationship with Mary Ann Fisher took the lead and he also dated another lady called Margie Hendricks while still married to Della.

Needless to say, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson soon got to hear about her husband’s wild escapades with women and alcohol but she still managed to hold the home front together for 22 long years. Many have argued that she must have done it for the sake of the children they share.

Della eventually filed for divorce in 1976 but the proceedings dragged on till the 26th of April 1977 when their divorce was eventually declared final, though they managed to keep the details secret. Even after they finalized their divorce, Charles and Della maintained a cordial relationship; when Charles was hospitalized, his ex-wife would always visit bearing food offerings.

Charles was not Della’s First Husband

Before Charles came into Della’s life, the gospel singer had already gone through two marriages and two divorces. In fact, she was yet to call it quits with her second marriage at the time she met Charles for the first time.

Della just clocked 20 during the early part of the 1950s when she met the man who would become her first husband. Reports said she was previously yearning for a home and children of her own. Her first husband’s name was never revealed but was said to be the son of a minister in the church she attends. In fact, the duo met at a church service one fateful night. The man was described as tall, standing at 6 feet 4 inches which was quite impressive and he was said to be handsome too with thick curly black hair and ebony skin.

After their exchange of vows, the couple moved into the guy’s country home where they enjoyed peace for a short while. In fact, Della described the duration of their peace as “a hot five minutes” and nothing more. Unfortunately, their bliss turned out to be ephemeral as her new husband wasted no time in displaying his true personality as a wife batterer.

According to Della, her spouse would always show his displeasure by punching her and when she couldn’t take it anymore, she filed for a divorce and returned to Houston.

It would appear that Della Beatrice Howard Robinson failed to learn her lesson as she hastily fell into a second marriage with a man who was considered to be worse than her first spouse. At 24, the gospel singer was lured into the arms of another tall Christian brother and she was nursing a secret fear of not being able to conceive and give birth since it didn’t happen with her first husband.

The details of Della’s wedding with her husband number two were not disclosed but the handsome Christian brother turned out to be even more violent than the man she just divorced. She was on a tour with her music group when the fear of returning home to more battering led her to flee to New York City and to date, nothing was said about their divorce.

It was while fleeing from her second husband that Della crossed paths with Charles who then became her third: like Della, Charles has also been married before. The records captured the name of his first wife as Eileen Williams Robinson but their union was short-lived and didn’t produce any children.

Ray Charles and Della Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Share Three Children

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
Della Charles, and their three sons image source

From what is obvious, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was already pregnant when she exchanged wedding vows with Charles and the couple welcomed their first son one month later. Ray Charles Robinson Jr. joined the family on the 25th of May 1955. Ray is currently earning his keep as an actor, author, and producer.

The couple’s second son, David Robinson came three years later in 1958, and their third son, Reverend Robert Robinson announced his entrance in 1960.

Though Charles only shared three children with Della, he ended up becoming a father of 12 giving his three sons nine half-siblings from different relationships. Some of their half-siblings include Evelyn, Reatha, Alexandra, Vincent, and five others.

Is Della Beatrice Still Alive?

Reports said that Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is still alive and kicking. However, she stopped drawing public attention after her divorce from Charles was finalized, thus following the happenings in her life has proved difficult.

Some sources recently reported that the ex-wife of Ray Charles now resides in Riverside County and she is greatly advanced in age.

Chidiebube has been writing and editing articles on movies, entertainment and other juicy things for several years. When he is not writing, he spends time outdoors, lost in the beauty of nature or simply travelling around the world. Thank goodness he can do the later with any internet-enabled device


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